THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 260

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 260

…“We can’t be sent back or they won’t let us go back?…

Cerella speaks to Deke alone; who takes her hand and kisses it gently, like it may fall off in his.

“What did she say Deke? It sounds like Far East music to me.” Gus is not used to being upstaged when it comes to getting attention from the female persuasion.

The two that have been taken with one another, continue their one-on-one exchange undaunted.

Quite comically, the remaining characters in the room restart a conversation of their own.

“What’s the matter Gus, do you feel left out?” Sampson chides Gus, like a father teases a son.

“Hell no Dad, I’m engaged to be married.” The fact that they are 10 light-years away from a wedding day matters not.

“What’s her name, where’s she from, do you have a picture?” Celeste bullies her way into a litany of motherly queries.

Gus reaches into his SOL Project flight suit for the engagement picture from The Houstonian  of him and Mindy McDonald. “How long did it take us to get here?

Celeste looks to Sampson, the official timekeeper of the family.

“30 months, as far as I can tell.”

“That’s 2½ freaking years! Are you sure we needed rescuing, because I bet Mindy has already mourned my death… like we did you guys?”

“Ten more seconds into SOL warp and you surely would have died. NASA astro-mechanics did their job, but the bio-people did not,” Dad does his best.

“The Eridanians have mastered the fabric of time and they thought we would like to know about your fate. So, “we” went back to when/before that happened, adjustments were made to your ship. It is because of those adjustments that we could not allow you to return to Earth,” good news-bad news from a loving mother.

“We can’t be sent back or they won’t let us go back?” The more the idea of being separated from Mindy sinks in, the less savory is the notion.

A loving father cups Gus’ face with his hands, massaging his cheeks, wiping away the tears, “Never say never…”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 260


page 233

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 258

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 258

…May I say that you don’t look a day over….well you look younger than that…

Deimostra takes her turn as tour guide inside the Newfoundlander, “This is the room I was born in.”

Gradually more comfortable with the improbable idea of having a sister, Gus misunderstands, asking a question that could have been better thought out, “Does that mean that you were conceived down here?”

Celeste hears this and yanks him back unceremoniously, “Come on Gus, you talk to her like she is a “thing”.”

“I was born on the Fourth of July, Stardate 2031.” Any insensitivity blows right past her.

4Th Of July GIF by Hallmark eCards - Find & Share on GIPHYGus sheepishly affirms, “Wow, Independence Day, can you imagine that.”

Deke goes in a different direction. “That means that Sis was conceived on the way to Mars!?”

Celeste cuts in. “All right then Deke. We will discuss the details later.”

He does not stop at that.

“The last “stardate” I remember is 2051 Deimostra, that would make you twenty-years-old. May I say that you don’t look a day over….well you look younger than that.”

“Call me Sammy, Deke, Daddy does.” Again meaningless details do not affect her.

“Deke McKinney, cease and desist! Let’s just become a family again,” Mom pleads.

Gus cannot resist one last qualifying, identity verifying question.

“Where were the 2030 Winter Olympics held Dad?”

“Who cares about the Olympics Gus, the damned Astros lost the World Series to the damned Japanese team in the American League Championship Series.”

“Yep, these here McKinneys are the real thing!”

“What is the world series?” Sammy asks.

“We will discuss all that, along with the other stuff we aren’t supposed to, later.” Gus corrals his sister and hugs the Errordannias out of her.

Their first glimpse of John Q. Eridanian, other than the exceptionally humanoid Cerella, comes while on the way to some McKinney family space. Deke & Gus try not to stare, but subtle double-takes take place from on either side of the alien fence. The ho-hum-ness of this chance passing goes far in assuring the new visitors, that not only are they accepted , they were also expected.


THE RETURN TRIP

Find the Differences

Episode 258


page 231

 

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 250

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 250

…how many times had their sons looked at Orion the constellation, unaware of their parent’s presence, there 10 light-years distant…

How many times?

The huge sliding door at the Spaceship Expository, which looks like it weighs a million pounds, unseals like a floating bee, leading to the spaceship “NOT FOR SALE” showroom.

That opening, for Celeste and Cerella along with Deimostra, heralds Stellar Explorer’s imminent arrival. Of these three bounding beauties, it is difficult to tell who is more excited, their silky white robed trains straining to keep pace.

Ekcello was already aware {of course he was}, Sammy Mac guesses as much {dumb luck}, but it is Ekcello who has poured cold H2O on Cerella’s parade.

Disappointment

#I think it best that our newest visitors be restored slowly. They will be greeted by the McKinneys alone. We cannot have them reacting irrationally#

#But it is I who has made the necessary preparations for them. I am disappointed at not being allowed to greet them in person#

#Disappointment is futile, cherished one. You will have your chance once they have fully grasped their fate#

The McKinney women reach out and touch her empathetically. Sampson shrugs his shoulders; just another telepathically shared moment that passes him by.

#We hope that your reunion goes well# Ekcello and Cerella float away, the latter is let down for a different reason..

These newly unplanned duties discombobulate the apprehensive Eridanus McKinneys momentarily. Just as Deke & Gus, who had given up all hope of seeing mother and father again, likewise mother and father have already dealt with their grief. How many times they had longed to send the equivalent of a letter to their sons, recounting their story of survival; first on Mars, then aboard the NEWFOUNDLANDER, and finally on the misty world named Eridanus?

And how many times had their sons looked at Orion the constellation, unaware of their parent’s presence, there 10 light-years distant?

What are the inexpressible words which will best describe the twisted path that brought them here, against all odds?


THE RETURN TRIP

Twisted Path

Episode 250


page 224

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 248

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THE RETURN TRIP Episode 248

…Together, teacher and student ready the Spaceship Expository for the modified Stellar Explorer…

An example of the growing bond between Earthman and Eridanian surfaces when the latter relinquishes control of the Space Expository to the former. He may not understand the need to keep busy {not just ponder the meaning of life}, like a parent handing the reigns of the family business, so has he to Sam, a trusted child.

For all his earthily stubborn quirks, Sampson made himself an unquestioned authority on the science and history of space travel. And though he is not allowed to rise above the foggy atmosphere, he wears the crown of the foremost space-travel-technician in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Together, teacher and student ready the Expository for the modified Stellar Explorer. Sampson is genuinely looking forward to getting his hands on its space-drive, for comparison purposes of course; the wrong way as opposed the right way. To accommodate his study, a berth next to the Eridani spaceship has been squeezed into the already crowded floor plan.

#I do not think that Deke & Gus will be pleased having their ship immobilized#, speaks Ekcello melodically. He is increasingly more cognizant and concerned over the state of the human mind. This is a palpable change for this mental being, formerly deeply rooted in the empirical.

 

“You’ve got that right Ekcello old boy! I was none too pleased back when we got here…and I wasn’t even on my own ship. After all, my guys were expecting a short trip around the Solar System. Instead, they are going to wake up with beards and hoping that it all is one bad SOL distorted dream.”

#Will they not be pleased to reunited with you their parents?#

The Eridanian translation into Sampson-speak is beautifully sung into his mind, allowed to mull about for consideration.

“I have the uneasy feeling that they will not trust what they see, sort of alien tomfoolery to appease their skepticism. I am positive that our “death” is part of their mindset, because of the demise of Space Colony 1. To discover that we are alive and living 10 light-years away is a radical notion.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Reunited by Jacquline Hurlbert.

Episode 248


page 223

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 235

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 235

…This is no ordinary day and the electric atmosphere is equal to the achievement…

Reuters/Gene Blevins

On this day, the 9th of January 2051, Roy Crippen is sending his stepsons, with the legendary name of space travel, McKinney, beyond the reach of known distance and its mythical barrier of speed; SOL.

Roy had long ago resolved his issues of guilt surrounding that other pair of McKinneys, yet he will not be able to free himself from the responsibility about to be heaped upon him with this day’s foray; the exploration of the Black Frontier.

The Black Frontier, so named because space is a vacuum filled with invisible dark matter and light-catching objects scattered sparingly about, is about to have a speeding projectile slip through its tranquility. And nothing but perfection can be accepted. Such is the margin of error.

“The fusion units are online President Crippen,” reports a technician, to a man who longs to be called “just plain Roy”.

“Are the cooling sensors set to maximum Hadley? The vacuum induction will be engaged when they reach 275 miles and we cannot have hyper-generation in the meantime.”

That technician, the engineers, the pilots, and everybody in the room know this, but again, he is leaving nothing to chance. The unmanned test was a colossal success and that exact result is to be repeated.

Three hours later, arriving at runway one-niner, simultaneously with the rising sun, Deke & Gus McKinney step out of the IFOS turbotransport looking alert and wired for the day of their lives. This is no ordinary day and the electric atmosphere is equal to the achievement.

The press/dignitary area is stuffed to overflow with anyone having a handheld PC, camera or microphone (all-in-one these days), even though they will only be witness to the SLAV escorting Stellar Explorer out of eyeshot. Ironically, without the aid of super-duper slow-mo time-lapse, there will be no recorded “footage” once they engage the vacuum induction.


THE RETURN TRIP

Out of Sight by Carmen Guedez

Episode 235


page 213

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 234

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 234

…The Stellar Explorer {SEx}, first of three planned SOL cruisers, will be carried piggyback-style into the lower reaches of the thermosphere …

While the SOL Project lead astronauts are finding pillows, Roy Crippen and the rest of the support crew are up working, readying both themselves and the equipment that marks the first major venture into space since the New Mayflower came up empty handed from its rescue mission on Mars.

As one might imagine, security surrounding SOL has not been taken lightly, seeing that the United Korean Peninsula and its allies seldom pass up the opportunity for mischief.

The old adage ’Fool me once, shame on you / Fool me twice shame on me’ may need to be amended with this added, ‘Fool me thrice, a hopeless fool am I’. After Space Colony 1’s demise and New Mayflower’s brush with the same, no space rocks have been left unturned.

The Stellar Explorer, first  SOL cruiser, will be carried piggyback-style into the lower reaches of the thermosphere by a recently constructed sub-light assist vehicle (SLAV); a multipurpose vehicle which can repair orbiting satellites, service the International Space Station, and transport new technology like the SOL cruisers away from Earth’s grip.

Now most former Presidents of the USA, when their term(s) expire, retire to lifelong perks; the easy street of building a library of their own indulgence and staff/security until the day they die. Not Roy Crippen, as he heads the privately funded INDEPENDENT FOUNDATION FOR THE OCCUPATION OF SPACE or IFOS. He leads a vast team of scientists, engineers, and technicians who operate away from overbearing military meddling and partisan bureaucratic balderdash.

So from the ashes of what was his beloved NASA, Roy Crippen’s fingerprints are all over America’s venturing out of the Solar System, with the help of familiar names in the world of Mars and beyond.

On this day, one of excitement and apprehension, he is sending his stepsons, with the legendary name of space travel, McKinney, beyond the reach of known distance and its mythical barrier of speed; 186,282.051 miles/second. Just how much faster than the speed-of-light that Deke & Gus McKinney goes is TBD.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 234


page 212

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 229

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 229

…Earth must be convinced that Deke & Gus McKinney are yet another major failure in Earth’s misbegotten ventures into space…

Misbegotten Moons by Elena Stone

#The successful test of an unmanned vehicle at sub-light velocities is leading Earth to the wrong conclusions# Ekcello is as emotionally invested as his Eridanian rationality will allow him, #There is a point in time, before they achieve that SOL threshold, that we could make the necessary alterations to their space-drive and bring them here to Eridanus#

Sampson prefers another option, “Why not save their lives, make the test a success and let them slingshot back to Earth? I don’t think Eridanus is in their flight plan.”

#For your technicians to believe that it was by their merit that made the speed-of-light possible, when it clearly is not, would be like us sending you and Celeste back; the damage and confusion would offset the good intentions. They must be convinced that Deke & Gus McKinney are yet another major failure in Earth’s misbegotten ventures into space#

“Now wait a minute here Mister! We may not be the most successful space program going… however many other space programs there are… but you are not letting us learn by our mistakes.”

#That logic is flawed#

“What are you saying Sam? Don’t you get it?” Celeste is adamant. “Either way the results will be the same, in the eyes of our world. Why should the reputation of the SOL Project take precedent over reality? The best possible solution is for the boys to join us here on Eridanus.”

#At this point in the space/time continuum, the people of Earth cannot know the difference between death and disappearance as opposed to perceived success. How will your sons be able to explain the sudden emergence of a completely foreign technology. They could not#

“Excuse me if I find it hard to get used to deciding the outcome of otherwise predetermined circumstances, family or not. They are going to freak out when they, all of a sudden, find themselves here. At least we had 5 years to think about it.”

#We implore you to listen to your mate. She has seen for herself and she understands#

Though outwardly he appears a dissident, Sampson McKinney has internalized and reconciled this matter of morality and mortality. Of all the things usually attributed to the Lord’s mysterious ways, the manipulation of the future by an alien race, raises more questions than those answered; each instance becoming moot and academic.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 229


page 207

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 224

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 224

…If it is possible to reverse immortality, I am positive that you have knocked at least a few years off of Ekcello’s life…

Mortality And Immortality by William Michael Harnett

Like it or not, the McKinneys were there to stay and now interest in that little blue dot nearer the middle of this galaxy has renewed, by necessity, if not their preoccupation. Akin to their more physical predecessors from eons past, they have renewed their consuming quest to understand that planet known as them as ĞŁŒŠ {Earth}.

“Sam, you have to realize that at one time these people traveled to all parts of the Universe,” explains Celeste, who through osmosis gathered the reasoning behind the Eridanus’ distracted abstractness. “Of all the worlds they may have encountered, the endless variety of life forms thereabout, we of Earth may well be as close to blood relatives that they have. I think that we are so much like the Eridanians of 4000 years ago that it scared the voice right out of them.”

“You mean we are a mirror image?” asks Sampson.

“Yes and when it is YOUR reflection they see, oh my…”

“It’s not my fault we do not exactly see eye-to-eye.”

You have hit it on the head Sam! If it is possible to reverse immortality, I am positive that you have knocked at least a few years off of Ekcello’s life!

Sampson laughs loudly at that notion, to the point of tears and side ache. He is quite aware that he has singlehandedly reintroduced some long-dead emotions to Eridanian culture. And he is in no small way very proud of it.

“Do you know that I think that the youngsters, you know the 300-400 year-olds, can understand me? I told them about opening day at the new Yankee Stadium in 2017, 70,000 screaming fans watching a ball being pitched-and-hit on manicured green grass. I even showed them that Mickey Mantle Topps rookie card I carry. They love it!”

“Somewhere, deep in their youthful existentiality, they must have a basal need for an outlet for buried emotion.” Celeste attempts to explain any possible fascination with her husband.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 224


page 203

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 211

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 211

Shangri-La is one proper adjective attached to describe Utopian perfection, though there is nothing on Earth, mythical or real, to compare it to…

NEWFOUNDLANDER follows in behind the withdrawing cover and as it descends to the altitude of an intercontinental supersonic transport, the planet of their fancy is revealed in its entire splendor.

“This is the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on,” Celeste puts her hands to her chest, to contain her rapidly beating heart.

“My God Celeste, I believe we have discovered where Heaven is.” Put an X on this spot for further reference. It’s is one thing to have seen Mars in person for the first time, quite another to observe the incomprehensible.

Eridanus2 - Copy

There are no clear-cut continents or oceans below, or any typical land features for that matter. In the place of familiar geography, spiraling cities, on invisible stilts, rise randomly up into the pastel pink skies. The majestic lofty perches are scattered about the planet surface in no particular pattern. Nowhere to be found: sprawling industrial complexes, its attending pollution, gaudy interconnecting roadways for wheeled vehicles or skies plugged with crisscrossing contrails trailing flitting aircraft.

Shangri-La is one proper noun/adjective attached to describe Utopian perfection, though there is nothing on Earth, mythical or real, to compare it to and no word in the English language can do it justice.

Come to think of it, even the NEWFOUNDLANDER, now making an aerodynamic approach to the nondescript terra firma of this enigmatic sphere, looks strangely out of place. Yet it appears to be coming home like a long-lost relative or the family black sheep welcomed back with open arms, no questions asked; The Parable of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15):

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

The largest of these towering edifices opens its low-level gates, in order to swallow the NEWFOUNDLANDER. The sliding door of giant size draw apart slowly and you can almost hear the creaking of the glides due to a drought of inactivity. The ship lumbers in, after the gap reaches its full extent.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 211


page 191

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 184

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 184

…we have lost not only two of our finest astronauts, but the very first colonists on another planet…

Roy Crippen takes his turn as, mourner, moderator and commemorator.

“I do know Sampson and Celeste McKinney and I can proudly say that they counted me as their friend. To know them is to know the definition of reliability. If I had a dollar for every time I heard them say, ‘You can count on us.’ I would be materially rich beyond measure.

“As Braden King would tell you,” he points at BK sitting between the boys, “there isn’t anything they would not do for their country and their space program. And if we could hear them now, they would be telling us, ‘Do not stop with Space Colony 1. You must press on; you must come out and be with us.”

He pauses to reflect on what space exploration is all about.

“When one decides to become a working astronaut, there are certain things you must come to terms with in your mind. Topping that list and there is little question as to its reality, is that constant companion of dealing with the speculative unknown: d-e-a-t-h. We at NASA, as well as our global partners at the World Space Consortium, deal with technology at its finest, but because of the distances involved and other uncontrollable factors, danger is:

  1. one step behind every single manned mission
  2. when we step out of a vehicle exceeding 100,000 feet of altitude
  3. each time we take that next step baby step closer to the edge of the solar system

“I need not remind you of the Challenger or Columbia and the brave men and women who gave their lives. Did they believe they would return to Earth safely? Yes they did. Did they know there was a possibility that they wouldn’t? Yes they did.

“We have gone 27 years without a fatality in space. We now find ourselves coming to grips with terrible realization that we have lost not only two of our finest astronauts, but the very first colonists on another planet

“…. both were keenly aware of the perils they would be facing. Did they know that Space Colony 1 was destroyed by jealously and hate not a meteor or electrical malfunction? No probably not.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 184


page 175